The coaching staff must take the task head-on in building the blocks to strengthen the team for the years to come. Owner Al Davis has his old way of football tactics and heat-of-the-moment, irrational selections, but he needs to come to terms with what's in store if he accommodates to the Modern Age of the NFL starting with his star players. But at the same time, all of this first plays a role on the ability of reaching a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) withe the NFLPA and the owners. When the CBA is complete and terms are settled, we will see what's thrown in. The ole' owner must allow Jackson to design a unit in the meantime that's jam-packed with youth and great experienced veterans that are passionate to put on the silver and black. With a nice blend of chemistry, the team can only succeed in the coming seasons. He didn't seem older in his actions in the 2010 season, but Davis appeared to have finally admitted his wrong doings and discerned what needs to be repaired to improve his franchise before it's too late.
Starting with star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha—a signing that might well be the most difficult for the franchise and most unpredictable. Asomugha will have to make the decision to remain in Oakland. Raider Nation would support that he's one of the top slot corners in the NFL. But he could be asking for too much of the piece of the pie—making as much as the elite QBs in the league today. And it's not likely he'll be leading the team to a Super Bowl anytime soon at cornerback. While he's clearly one of the top shut-down corners, he's not really solving the Raiders issues on defense either, having given up 29 touchdown passes. The signing could affect all of Free Agency—not only for the Raiders but the entire NFL. With the CBA not coming into effect until early March, there's no telling what will unfold with other star veterans who will test the waters on the market. If he remains in silver and black, the fans and Raiders players would like, you can bet he will still have a momentus impact on the field—and off-the-field as well, of course.
Veteran DE/DT Richard Seymour is no constellation prize. He was given the 'franchise tag' last season and looks to remain with the team in 2011. Seymour has become a leader in the locker room and on the field and the defensive line was much better with him this past season and both Davis and Hue Jackson know it. If the rules stand, Seymour will likely receive the tag again. The fact is Oakland traded its first-round-pick for him via New England, he's made a significant impact, and that's where he'll likely remain—assuming Al Davis spends the money.
If nothing else comes of this Free Agent mess—the importance of signing Zach Miller—who's been the No. 1 target the past two seasons in Oakland at tight end and has worked to become an asset on the offensive line and moving the chains downfield. Miller was also added to the Pro Bowl roster this year in Hawaii. With Jason Campbell already being publicly made known the starter next season, Miller is ready to create on of the best QB-TE tandems in the NFL.
The Offensive line is chock-full of Free Agents and most of them look to be resigned or replaced by other veteran FAs around the league. But the most recognizable member on the O-Line is Robert Gallery. With the final four years on his deal having been voided, the Raiders guard is set to become an Unrestricted Free Agent. Albeit FOX Sports indicated that Gallery is likely to head elsewhere because of his loyalty to Tom Cable (who's no longer with the team of course), in essence it may have no implications since he's also loyal to the fan base in Oakland and his teammates. You don't have to tell Raiders fans know the importance of re-signing the leader on the offensive line that improved this past season from recent history.
On the offensive side of the football remains an essential back-up to the team that led the NFL in rushing in 2010. Darren McFadden obviously broke out this past season, but did endure a few bothersome injuries along the way. Michael Bush backed up the NFL star and former Razorback and filled a 1-2 punch in Oakland's running game very well throughout the season. The Raiders need an insurance policy and Bush fills the role like a five-star burger fills a starving appetite. While he's not explosive enough to be the starter year-round, it only improves his odds of staying in silver and black, and having a strong back-up in the backfield, especially with a team like the Raiders, is crucial. Opposing defenses won't know what's coming and it presents a more powerful threat.
What about Bruce Almighty—a fan favorite of Raider Nation? Bruce Gradkowski is the type of quarterback that could take control of the team right away, deliver the ball accurately to receivers and concentrate on making plays to lead the Raiders to find ways to win. He knows his position on the team and provides a strong backup for the franchise, especially from the pressure forced upon Jason Campbell in a grueling long season. He's the type of guy that will keep the team on track and moving forward in the year when called upon and is another attractive FA re-signing to the Raiders.
Routt, Huff and Williams
There are several other valuable FAs the Raiders need to address this offseason. Some are on the offensive line. Others play an indispensable factor on the defense. Among these are CB Stanford Routt, who will be dealt with depending on whether Nnamdi Asomugha joins another team. Another is free safety "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down," Michael Huff. He was a first-round-pick by Oakland five years ago and he's continued to grow and become a valuable player in the Raiders secondary. Somehow the Raiders staff needs to figure how how to re-sign the recently selected All-Pro safety, regardless of what roadblocks stand in their way. Sam Williams, a third important defender and veteran linebacker, who with all do respect to him, should have no problem signing for the league minimum and remaining in Oakland.
Prices on these player contrasts won't come cheap—it's going up like gasoline in the NFL, which can help explain the mess in CBA that needs to be negotiated. Sportswriters and fans alike must to pay close attention with a set of binoculars to what unfolds in the coming months.
The job to figure all of this out is not up to the average 30-something that still lives in their parents basement. According to the team, it's about identifying the foremost priorities—re-signing the top Free Agents on your franchise. Second is planning to strengthen the offensive line. I don't believe it's necessary to try to find a starter on the O-Line in the second or third round.
Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell, two rookies in 2010, are already providing outstanding fortifications to strengthen the unit. Third is looking at a defense that improved the most of any team last season. This will, for the most part, clear up first on the signings of Asomugha and Richard Seymour. The fans and Raiders staff can only hope for the best leading into the offseason, full with Free-Agent madness.
Passing up on players could become daunting and it's not always a good thing especially if they know team's character and strategies, which is why this FA class will be as trouble-free as an earthquake evacuation for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders this offseason. They're going to keep busy and manage to hold onto the players that will be a difference-maker and have the build for the future—from a top-notch Pro Bowler to a benched veteran ready to make an impact on the team.